BRAMPTON, ONTARIO — Chris Auger scored two goals and Beast goaltender Zach Fucale turned aside 34 shots to lead the Brampton Beast to a 4-2 victory over their divisional rival the Wheeling Nailers on Friday night at the Powerade Centre.
Auger’s second goal of the game at 10:14 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and stood up as the game winner in large part to the heroics of Fucale, who turned aside 14 of 15 Nailer shots in a pressure-packed final frame.
Both David Vallorani and David Pacan earned his 13th goal of the season to round out the scoring for the Beast (11-7-1-2), who moved into fourth place in the North Division at the expense of the Nailers (11-7-2-0).
The Beast have now won three games in a row and will have an opportunity to attain a four-game win streak for the first time in its ECHL history when they face off against Wheeling at the Powerade Centre again on Sunday afternoon.
The first period in part one of this two-game series was an evenly-played affair as both teams took turns controlling the pace. After being held off the shot clock for nearly the first eight minutes of the match, the Beast used a strong team forecheck to roar back with some solid attacking zone pressure to close out the opening period
However, Fucale, and Nailers goaltender Doug Carr, proved to be up to the task of shutting down every scoring chance that came their way.
Wheeling outshot the Beast 11-6 in the scoreless opening frame.
It was Brampton that broke through early in the second period to draw first blood in the hockey game. Vallorani potted a power-play goal at 5:54 by knocking home a juicy rebound off of a Luke Pither snap shot into a wide open cage
Garrett Meurs of the Nailers responded with the equalizer by beating Fucale with a power move at 11:58.
Less than three minutes later, Auger struck for the first time. He staked the Beast to a 2-1 lead at 14:43 with a mid-air baseball swing that wowed the over 3,000 hockey fans on hand to watch this game.
Brampton managed to preserve this lead heading into the third period. The home team enjoyed a slight 12-10 edge on the shot clock in the middle frame.
The resilient Nailers opened the third period by putting a dent in Brampton’s momentum. Milos Bubela fired the puck into a wide open cage just 17 seconds into the period after the puck took an unlucky carom off of the backboards.
Fueled with momentum, the Nailers pushed hard for their first lead of the game but were denied time and time again by a never-better Fucale.
Auger put the Beast up for good with a deft deflection off Luke Pither’s shot from the half wall through the pads of Carr, who made 21 saves in defeat.
The Beast’s ability to hold onto this lead was significantly tested as the Nailers were given a five-on-three power play in the dying minutes of the game. The team defense rose to the occasion and refused to give the Nailers a single good look at tying the game.
Pacan confirmed a Beast win with an empty-net tally with 24 seconds left in regulation time.
The rematch against the Nailers will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Notes: The Beast went 2-for-4 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. The Beast are now 7-1 in games where their starting goaltender finished the game with a save percentage of .900 or over.
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